BERKELEY, Calif. — By Saturday night, few teams in the Pac-12 knew exactly where they would fit in the conference standings, and only two — Colorado and California — could control where they landed.

Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, California took better advantage of the opportunity than they did.

Askia Booker's last-second 3-point attempt — a difficult shot while running full speed to his right — was off the mark and CU fell to Cal in a heart-breaker, 66-65 in overtime at Haas Pavilion.

"It's a really tough loss and it's kind of hard to digest," sophomore Josh Scott said.

Xavier Johnson had 24 points for CU, and Scott posted a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds), but it wasn't enough for the Buffs to land one of the coveted top four spots in the final conference standings.

Saturday wins by Cal, Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford created a five-way tie for third place. The Pac-12's tie-breaking procedure left Arizona State with the No. 3 seed, Cal at No. 4, CU at No. 5, Stanford at No. 6 and Oregon at No. 7. Arizona and UCLA were already locked into the top two seeds.

The top four seeds earn a first-round by for the Pac-12 Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Las Vegas, and coming up just short of that was tough for the Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8 Pac-12).


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"We didn't position ourselves where we wanted to be, but we'll be all right," Johnson said.

Had they won, the Buffs would have earned the No. 3 seed, and they came tantalizingly close to getting there.

Booker hit a driving layup with 48 seconds to play in overtime to give CU a 65-64 lead, but Cal's Justin Cobbs drained a pair of free throws with 20.8 seconds to go.

CU's Xavier Talton missed a good look at a 3-pointer with about five seconds to go and after Cal's Tyrone Wallace missed a free throw, Booker came up short on his last attempt.

"Yeah, my momentum was just going to the right," Booker said. "It's better if you can get a shot on two feet usually. It's just a tough shot."

That's how close the Buffs were, though, in a game that featured two teams with a lot on the line. Cal would have finished eighth, and might have said goodbye to any NCAA Tournament hopes, with a defeat. Now, the Bears keep themselves in that conversation.

"It's a sigh of relief," said Cobbs, who had 21 points on his senior night. "We've been through so much ups and downs, losing games we should have won and things just not clicking, and to finally come out with a win, it gives us some confidence going into the Pac-12 Tournament."

CU gained a bit of confidence, too, with its strong effort on the road. But, the Buffs may forever look back at the fact that they had two opportunities to win the game and missed on both. In addition to their chance late in overtime, the Buffs had the ball in the closing seconds of regulation.

With the game tied at 59-59, CU called a timeout to draw up a final play with 26 seconds to go.

The idea was to get the ball to Johnson, who made eight of his 15 shots and had one of the best nights of his career. Cal's Ricky Kreklow had been guarding Johnson, and Boyle felt CU had a mismatch it could exploit.

"We came out of (the timeout) and Kreklow was guarding Wesley (Gordon)," Boyle said. "We didn't communicate well enough at the end there to execute that and we never got a shot up, so that was disappointing."

Talton held the ball for a while before heading into the paint and trying to make a play, but he turned it over. Cobbs actually got off a half-court shot before the buzzer.

"We have to learn to execute in the clutch plays," Johnson said. "Those are new plays that coach drew up on the drawing board. That's what a lot of professional players have is the ability to be able to convert plays from timeouts on the floor. We weren't able to do that a couple of times, but we just have to work on it and get better."

Despite their disappointment, the Buffs did walk away from Haas Pavilion feeling OK about their situation. A week earlier, following a second-half collapse in a loss at Utah, a lot of people questioned CU's toughness and ability to compete in and win tough games. The Buffs, for the most part, put those questions to rest this week.

"If you look overall at what we did out there and the progress we've made since Utah, its great strides and I think we are progressing," Johnson said. "That's going to help for the games to come."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.

Fast break

What went right

The Buffs played tough defense throughout the night, giving themselves a chance to win against a good team on the road.

What went wrong

CU missed on two chances to win the game late in regulation and overtime, failing to get off a shot on the first try, and settling for a missed 3-pointer on the second.

Star of the game

Xavier Johnson. Aggressive from the start, he finished with 24 points and six rebounds.

What's next?

The Buffs will face USC in the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday in Las Vegas.